Group projects: the bane of every college student’s existence. Whether it’s a short presentation or one worth 50% of your grade, for some reason there always seems to be a group member who just doesn’t care or doesn’t show up to meetings. Even though a single person may end up doing all of the work, why do professors love to assign them? Experts have given their take on the matter along with some steps to help out when you have that oh-so-very-lame group member. With this professional help, you’ll be ready to set sail on the SS Group Work.
Even though you may have one partner who said he thinks the project is stupid and another who has dropped off the face of the Earth, just breathe. It may look like a sinking ship, but with the whole crew working together, you can navigate any rough waters. Dr. Roger Pace, a professor of Communication Studies at the University of San Diego and coauthor of Communication in a Changing World suggested that “the group should set clear participation expectations at the beginning of the project and hold members to those agreed upon values.” It’s also extremely important to get your members’ phone numbers the day the project is assigned because let’s face it—what twenty-year-olds don’t check their phones constantly?
Call Them Out
If you assign someone in the group a role and he hasn’t done it within the assigned deadline, let him know. Remind yourself that you’re only helping the group. “Individual problems should be addressed with directness but support. Try ‘We are here to help you but you need to also help us,’ to try to get all members on the same page,” Dr. Pace said. If they aren’t able to complete tasks in college, employers won’t hesitate to fire them in the real world—there’s a lot of sharks out in those waters. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this in person, send him a reminder text or Facebook message to keep the project fresh in his mind. Otherwise, tell that scallywag he can walk the plank.
Let Your Professor Know
Desperate times call for desperate measures. “When group partners don’t do the work, start gentle and then escalate from there. Honesty is important,” Tygarajan Somasundaram, a previous consultant with companies like Nokia and Cymer and current Marketing professor at USD, said. For the times your group partners are just completely MIA you don’t have to signal SOS. Go ahead and tell the prof. He or she might be able to assign you to a new group or at least give you full credit for the work that you completed—which we all know will be flawless *flips hair like Queen B*. Professors are usually willing to work with you and won’t just watch idly as your hopes and dreams crash with your project. Let the skipper steer this ship to safety.
Take Charge of the Group
You’re the captain of this ship, and its not going to sink on your watch. Start by breaking up bigger sections into smaller chunks for your group to handle, the work seems less daunting and encourages Jack to hold onto his piece of driftwood with all his strength. With you in charge, its pretty much smooth sailing from here. As President of SportsRX and former Vice President of Marketing at Upper Deck Daniel Bruton said, “ Learning in school to work with your peers and manage a timeline will help build the skills need to be a success in business.” Definitely an added bonus for you, so don’t abandon ship, matey.
Rock the Project Anyway Like a Boss
Don’t let carefree students drag you into their ways. Be the Unsinkable Molly Brown of this crew and lead everyone to safety. “In business, the distribution of work to complete a project is not always even. The most important thing is to accomplish the goal,” Bruton said. If the group has given up, don’t play into its trap and give up too. Keep fighting until all partners to do their work, so you can get that killer grade. All of the people skills you’ll learn along the way will translate into awesome work-related skills that’ll help you land an awesome job. Now go murder that project (but not your partners, of course).
All the Group Project Personalities You’re Sick of Dealing With
Written by Hannah Park, senior, journalism, University of Maryland, College Park
Even the simplest groups projects can be stressful when group members’ personalities clash. Take a look at CM’s glossary of group personalities and follow our tips on how to keep it together and make the grade.
This organization-freak takes on all responsibilities of the group in order to maintain control in the pursuit of nothing short of an “A.”
Tip: Offer to be in charge of an aspect of the project that you are familiar with; this will help to spread responsibilities and stay involved
(i.e., freeloader) Grinning from ear-to-ear at the announcement of a group project, the slacker takes delight in doing what they do best—absolutely nothing.
Tip: Keep your cool when dealing with a slacker by dividing workloads evenly and making sure everyone adheres to deadlines.
The militant take-charge voice of the group. This personality tends to shut down all other ideas, thus overshadowing those who are reluctant to voice their opinions.
Tip: Avoid conflict by keeping open dialogues from the start—encourage every group member to share an opinion on every aspect of the project so no one gets overlooked.
The person who shows up to the first meeting and becomes MIA when grunt work begins to accumulate. Once the paper has to be turned in or the presentation is hours away, this member suddenly decides to make up for lost time—too little, too late, of course.
Tip: Make sure every group member has everyone’s contact information, and set a schedule for meetings from the very start. This way no one has an excuse for being out of the loop.
Not everyone is a slacker—what about those who simply have too much on their plate?
Tip: Online communication is the best way to deal with a multitasker—try scheduling separate meetings with this elusive member to keep them updated on the workload.
Which group personality are you?
*Article updated March 21, 2016 by Hannah Park to include “Multiple (Group) Personalities.”